Sunday, 30 December 2012

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Courtessy of Urs.

Friday, 7 December 2012


The two swans have it good. They are together, gently necking on the rippling ponds. They occasionally peck down for a snack. They are well wrapped up against the cold.
And it's all free.
When they want some nourishment, they just find it and take it from the bounty of the good earth.
Their needs are relatively few. They don't use money. or credit cards. They have no economy at all.
These are simple creatures. Not evolved, highly developed, as we are. With our money worries. Our gadgets. Our notions that you have to work for a living.Our strange barriers, erected by our proud sophistication, between us and the world.
And our sense of  puzzlement, at why this increasing sophistication seems to make us no happier.

Friday, 30 November 2012


“We’re stuck,” he said, “stuck in our ways, stuck in our inability to provide a wider vision of what our service to the organization and our customers could and should be.”
Now that was a brief I could work with. We took the team to an extremely remote shooting lodge. To get there, 4x4s were needed. They hired theirs. We took ours. After an apparently normal dinner, overnight stay and breakfast, unfortunately our clumsiest consultant got the 4x4 stuck to its axles in a notorious bog, just off one end of the landrover track. Why did he ever go in there?
The call for help came in at the shooting lodge, and it was all hands to the pump, or, in this case, shovels, tow ropes, winches etc. For a good few hours, the team laboured to release the vehicle. They were up to their knees, and sometimes deeper in the mud, struggling to get the vehicle out, oblivious to the metaphor being worked on them.
But in session afterwards, receiving feedback from the rest of the business on being “stuck in the mud” as a team, together with video and observational feedback of their physical labours led them to reflect on their own behaviours at their best and at their worst.
To this day, the client says he cannot work out whether we deliberately got that vehicle stuck, or not! There was a sequel.
One group member, who had spent a childhood in the countryside, said “you won’t get that out. You need a tractor.” He was right. But the group didn’t see it that way. They saw their mission as trying to get the thing out, as distinct from getting it out. That he would not join in what he saw as futile labours left him isolated. Some months later. I revisited the team, more cohesive than ever. The lone voice was no longer employed within it.

Thursday, 29 November 2012

Thinking about death emlightens life.

Tuesday, 13 November 2012


It was a very large office. Cream carpet, measured by the hectare. Impressive negative space of a desk. The man himself, the CEO, small, a bit mis-shapen, very quietly spoken with an impediment that he had cunningly developed to make people listen. Not a single paper on the huge desk. Just a small wooden plaque, facing the victim. For one felt like a victim, walking the long distance between door and your bidden place in front of the desk.
"We want to create an empowerment culture," he pronounced, quietly, so quietly you had to strain to hear him, "a culture where people feel empowered to do the right thing, take the right decision, make the right call. A culture where people are encouraged to take initiative, come up with good ideas. A culture where people are not asking permission all the time, which gets away from our old rule bound ways of doing things and fosters innovation. A culture empowering every employee to make the best of themselves and develop their ideas to mutual benefit. A culture where people don't wait to be told what to do, but get on with doing the right things. A culture which moves beyond command and control, and into, as I say, empowerment."
I was young.
I was awed.
I was listening.
But my brain was not quite lulled into the off mode.
As his body language signalled that the interview was at a close, and I was to leave, I said "sounds like a fascinating challenge." I almost added the word "sir", such was his developed aura of power.
And then, young as I was, it could not be resisted. I reached forward and turned the small wooden plaque around, so its message faced him, rather than me.
It said, simply:
The buck stops here.

Friday, 9 November 2012


I am occasional birdwatcher.
I find birds useful, amongst other things.
They can tell you a lot by their behaviour.
For example, you always know the wind direction by looking at which way birds come in to land.
That was on my mind when I saw the bird hovering over the flame coloured cherry trees. Ah. a southerly, I thought, dismissing the bird as "just another" kestrel.
But then I saw the tell tale V shape tail and instantly realised my error.
It was a red kite. A species on the increase again in Britain, but this is the first I've seen at Laytham.
My spirits soar with the bird. As high as a kite.

Monday, 5 November 2012


What's the worst pain you've ever experienced?
Formerly, I'd have said heartbreak.
The biggest heartbreak in my life saw me resort to a couple of bottles of Rioja and 40 Marlboro a night. I was saved from this undesirable anaesthetic by motorbiking. A bike magazine published a calendar which I put on my kitchen wall. Aware that I was drinking too much, I just began monitoring how many nights I was sober. The answer was none. That was a help. As, gradually, I continued the highlighter pen on the calendar, so matters improved, until, though the pain never went away fully, and truthfully probably still has its tendrils somewhere in my body, Messrs Berry Brothers and Rudd profited less from my distress.
My life hasn't had a lot of pain. I once caught a cricket ball in the bollocks without a guard. That was painful. I've been punched in the face a few times - actually surprisingly not very painful, I broke a thumb on a mainsheet block a long way offshore. The next couple of days I felt a bit sorry for myself. I broke a wrist skiing. That was painful. A couple of years ago I walked out from an estate agent's into the street, clean forgetting that there were two steps down. I broke my arm. Painful.
But yesterday, I was racing mini missus on wet grass, and stumbled, coming down hard on my shoulder. I lay for an hour or so afterwards, whimpering like a kid, sweating and nauseous in a just pre unconscious phase. When I got to A and E, they reckon I haven't even broken anything. I can move my left arm well from the elbow, but even a micron's movement in the shoulder leaves me gasping. The pain is, I estimate, eight times more than a broken bone. My mate Bobski reckons I've been short changed without an x ray, though the medic seemed very certain, not to mention incomprehensible in the anatomy lesson she gave me about the various muscle groups surrounding the shoulder.
We'll see what a diet of nurofen sandwiches can achieve over the next few days.
Watch this space.

Saturday, 3 November 2012


You won't find garlic in my kitchen. I've declared war on it. My war started probably twenty years ago. I was constantly wondering "what's that vile smell?" What it was was the garlic, hanging in a larder and polluting the air of the house.
I defy a man to enjoy kissing a woman who has done garlic in the last twelve hours. Ugh. You'd need to be desperate indeed.
Some years ago, when my sons used to come to me for weekends, they were packed off with a spaghetti Bolognese supper by my ex, so that embracing them was a struggle. A vindictive tactic, or a coincidence? Let's be magnanimous.
Garlic is everywhere these days, despite its vileness. It has colonised commercial cookery and ingredients. It's the universal  inclusion. When the Missus returns from a working week, her need for food on the go means unwittingly consuming the evil bulb. It's in soups, sandwiches, dressings, and you can't find a main course in London eateries without it. Its vile spores infect everything it touches or which touches it.
My objection is not only its stink. It is this. Garlic makes you a lazy cook. Stick some garlic in, and you think the flavouring job is done. It stops you having to think about the harmonies of flavour which in fact are at the heart of cooking artistry. Garlic dominance robs a dish of the forethought and design which are the essence, for me, of being in a kitchen.
Cooking is making stuff. Edible nice things. And to make them good, the habit of mind which is required is that of considering first what ingredients are available, then what things go with what, and what will create balance and harmony in colour, shape, taste, and  texture. Garlic takes one (and maybe even  more than one) of those factors away. It's a flavour fascist.
There is nothing much that garlic can do that a reasonably skilled cook can't do with onions and leeks. But there's many a cook who automatically includes garlic, prey to its orthodoxy of universal inclusion, and thus blinded to his rightful duty to consider the flavour he is trying to create. With garlic you can't create any flavour, except garlic.
What about garlic bread? It's a fair cop, I admit. I like it. Between consenting adults. And when a treaty has been signed that both parties will partake. Then garlic has been mutually chosen as THE flavour of culinary goings on, much as one might sanction a little light BDSM in the bedroom. Occasionally. And not as a drug of choice. Certainly not to the extent that one becomes in thrall to the habit.
It's not a bad analogy. Tied up on a universal garlic-rack, we're in danger of mistaking simple monochromatic objectified food sex for what should be a deeper, more complex, more lasting relationship with flavour.
Food, after all, is an expression of love.

Thursday, 1 November 2012


There is such a hullabaloo about Jimmy Savile in all sorts of public forums that the question I am dying to put to a panel, such as that in Question Time, is this:

Is Jimmy Savile innocent?

Wednesday, 31 October 2012


Paxman gets owned by Conrad Black.

Sunday, 28 October 2012


Friday, 26 October 2012

"If you were totally content, you would also be totally painless. The body would be utterly free of tension, as all mental tension repeats itself in the body, all bodily tension being a sign of attachment elsewhere, rather than absorption in the perfection of the present.
Thus, in normal life, cultivate awareness of tension. Awareness and acceptance of tension is its own release. You cannot release from it by resisting it, as that adds rather than diminishes tension. And so begins the great paradoxical education - the acceptance of everything."

Thursday, 25 October 2012


Sometimes you see something and just go WOW.

That's what happened for me when I saw James Mylne's work,which he does using only a bic ballpoint:

Wednesday, 24 October 2012


Little Missus has been on a school trip.

"How did you get on?" I ask.

"Well, first we went on the bus and then we all had to put on our high viz bibs."

"Why did you have to put your high viz bibs on?"

"So we can't get lost."

"But if all the other kids have high viz bibs on too, how will they find you?"

"I did get a little bit lost."


IS IT ME.....?

On the way home the other day, I was listening to a Radio 4 programme. It was very interesting about a lady who has started a website called Everyday Sexism to catalogue sexist incidents. Good idea, I thought, and when I got back, I checked it out - Now, wouldn't sexism be defined as discrimination on the grounds of gender? And if so, isn't this site, with its wording thus :
"The Everyday Sexism Project exists to catalogue instances of sexism experienced by women on a day to day basis. They might be serious or minor, outrageously offensive or so niggling and normalised that you don't even feel able to protest. Say as much or as little as you like, use your real name or a pseudonym - it's up to you. By sharing your story you're showing the world that sexism does exist, it is faced by women everyday and it is a valid problem to discuss"

Isn't that actually sexist? Or am I just being blinded by my own sexism? Troubling.
A similar thing happened a couple of years ago when I and a few friends did a charity cycling gig in France. There were a couple of hundred participants, all in teams of four. At the end of the three day event, there was a prize giving. As an unexpected extra, not arranged by the organisers, but impromptu, one of the teams, a team of four women with the team name REAR VIEW presented a special prize for the shapeliest male arse, clad in cycling shorts during the event. Much general hilarity. But I was furious, and went over to their team leader and said "hang on a minute, what you've just done is terribly sexist. Just imagine if we'd had a team called EYES FRONT and we'd given out a prize for the best pair of tits in a cycling vest. You'd have been outraged." Now. amazingly to me, this led to a "scene" as the ladies didn't really take my comments to heart, accusing me of having "no sense of humour". So if, each time we passed each other on the road I'd called out "great arse, luv..." I guess said ladies would have roared and wobbled with the hilarity of it. Troubling.
My mate Bobski and I are busy exchanging scurillous Jimmy Savile jokes in the light of the current scandal surrounding him. I'm no Jimmy Savile fan. In fact, the reverse. It has been so ever since a mate of mine was laid up in Leeds General Infirmary, back in 1980. I went to visit him, and it so happened that Jimmy Savile was on duty as a hospital porter that day, to wide acclaim from most of the patients. "Good ol' Jimmy" they cried out, and similar. Now Jimmy had actually recruited some help in his portering activities on this particular day, in the form of his fellow all in wrestler, Big Daddy. Jimmy opened the door to the side ward which housed my friend, lying in traction, and Big Daddy stepped in, draped in a Union Jack. He raised his arms to take our applause. My friend lifted himself as far as traction allowed, and said emphatically, "fuck off, twat." Big Daddy looked a tad crestfallen at this unexpected response, turned, and wafted off, a very large parcel, wrapped in Union flag, down the hospital corridor.
As I say, I'm no fan. But I'm completely puzzled at the idea that there should be a police investigation into his alleged kiddy fiddling. Vile though this may have been, there can be no prospect of prosecuting him, so isn't a police investigation simply a monumental waste of public money? I understand that BBC, Dept of Health etc might want their investigations, and indeed need them both to "learn lessons" and to defend themselves against the possible claims bonanza which might result from all of the hoo haa. But again, has commonsense been lost in the case of the police?
Or, again, is it me? Have I, as I get older, simply been left behind in a time warp where commonsense once was, but its now moved on to a more advanced, complex, subtle, sustainable version of itself which I've failed to comprehend? You may think I'm being rhetorical. I'm not. I genuinely do wonder, and I genuinely do turn that wondering into an introspective enquiry when I seem so often to butt up against these things. It is, as I said, troubling

Monday, 15 October 2012


There you are, on a Monday morning, feeling the world is a dull, grey nonsensical kind of place, and along comes Felix Baumgartner to lift the spirits and remind us that adventure is still alive.

What touches me most in this is not only the enormous adventurous acheivement, but also the engagement of Joe Kittinger, the former record holder, as part of the team to break his own record.

Many congratulations to the RedBull team for this amazing endeavour.

Sunday, 7 October 2012


Saturday, 6 October 2012


Think I'd better get me a nice staid commuter bike.

Like this(watch on fullscreen for best effect):


Looks like my old bike is back on the market:

And this is what its like to ride:

Friday, 5 October 2012


London. Munich. There you are, two cities. Enough about that as I only wanted them for the title.
The Missus has a new car, one of Bavaria's finest. Oops, Munich again.
She kindly asked my advice when buying it, though my approach to car buying is probably not what you'd call on for, shall we say, sage counsel.
This is because it is all heart, and very little head.
Whereas the car in the purchase decision is all head. It delivers complete commonsense performance ratios. If it was a spreadsheet it would add up. Down, and across. It does at least twice, and maybe even three times the miles to the gallon that the Rangie does. It has, somewhere in its immaculate engineering, a computer which connects up all the gadgets you own and makes them usable on the move. It has a pristine interior, rather like a just cleaned meeting room. It has seven gears, and, if it didn't think it would be just too interesting, it would probably have more. It has a virtually silent engine so that you and your colleagues can have a fascinating conversation about efficiency ratios or usage patterns or things involving square meters. Its interior is beige. Come to think of it, its engine is beige. Or, more likely, Lufthansa grey.
If the car had a personality (which it doesn't) it would be a that of a robot, without a personality. It would collect stamps, only all the same stamp. It would speak a slightly German accented EuroEnglish (which its satnav does). It would concern itself with oral hygiene and body mass indices. It would not eat fat. It would say things like "I like you very much" and "hello". It would pretend to like music, so as not to be uncool. Its top button would be done up. It would know the employee handbook, and be able to refer to it.
By contrast, the Missus's beloved book keeper turned up at our place with quite a different proposition - a fin de siecle Jag V8. I looked at it goggle eyed, much as I might look at a well endowed gal who'd just turned up naked. I think my first word about it was "phwoar"!
"I'd love to have a go in that," I said, and amazed, found the keys thrust into my hand.
Entering the Jag is entering a world apart. A world no longer quite available. A world with much to do with the Dorchester, and the Reform Club. Except the Jag wouldn't have had any truck with signing the 1832 Act, and would very probably have been a sitting MP in one of the Rotten Boroughs with full seigneurial rights. The seat certainly felt as though it had been occupied for centuries, generations by venerable aristocratic behinds. I felt instantly privileged to sit there. I almost made a maiden speech. But I was cut short by the silken roar of the V8. I drove the car sedately for ten miles, savouring the unspeakable power which, if I had been crass enough to do so, I could have unleashed under my right foot. I thought the walnut panels would probably have hidden bookcases. Most certainly, hidden decanters. Every second in it was a pleasure. If I owned one, I'd never listen to the radio, never answer a phone call. That car was foie gras, on wheels. It was like going to bed with all the barmaids at your local all at once, with a fine port and a cigar to round it all off. I only wish I had been wearing a toga, and a laurel wreath to honour the moment of power and glory. Instead, I inherited a deep sense of contentment and satisfaction, as I followed the silver prowling beast on the bonnet through the local lanes, feeling that I should in fact be heading for Westminster, and the corridors of power. Oops, London. (So maybe it was a tale of two cities).
I emerged at a loss for verbal superlatives. My maiden speech in the house waas a short one.
"Now that," I said, not knowing what else to say, "IS a car."

Wednesday, 26 September 2012



Sunday, 23 September 2012

Eighteen years ago I came up with the name theoryB, for my business.

A lot of people asked me what it meant.

It was humorous to me when I formed it into a Limited Company and so it became TheoryB Ltd.

But in eighteen years no one has ever remarked on the gag.


No more waiting for the man who finds himself here.

Friday, 21 September 2012


My son is studying psychology. (Note to self: I'd better watch out or he'll be able to find out what a shit I really am).
He has just come across the famous Milgram experiment. It's a (dare I say it) shocking insight into human responses to authority.
Here's the original video
I remember being shown this film when I first became a young brand manager at Unilever, a position demanding influence without authority. It made a real mark on my consciousness. The experiment has, I understand, been repeated a number of times since the original. Somewhere around two thirds of people comply with the authority figure, even into the dangerous range of electrical shocks. What would you do? What would I do?
I remember also repeating for myself the experiment in my own fashion. I had gone to Coventry, and was in a supermarket with a friend of mine. I can't really say why, but I found a relatively innocuous item we needed, say a bag of pasta, and said "here, catch this..." and threw it to her. She caught it. I moved on to butter. The same. Then something like, say, a pot of yoghurt. Also, with growing concern, caught. Finally, I threw a frozen turkey. A big one. Wide eyed with horror, she caught that too. The idea, I guess, of a frozen turkey going slithering down the supermarket aisle was too much to handle.
Sometime later, my friend thought she'd get her own back. "Here," she called, in another town, another supermarket. A frozen chicken arced gracefully towards me. I did not disappoint. I jinxed slightly to one side, and the chicken flew past my ear, landed on the shiny floor, and slithered beneath the wheels of an elderly lady's shopping trolley.
These days, you'd have to do that experiment in a high viz bib.
But I still maintain that the turkey test is as good as any other as a test of character.
Before you run away with the idea, though, that I'd be immune from authority figure compliance, I also recall going to Dachau concentration camp a few years ago. Strangely, although I had great sympathy for the people who had suffered there, the people I found I could most identify with were the fresh faced young German soldiers and their Officers. I had the clear realization, that, given a different time, a different regime, a different media, a different sense of what was supposed to be right and wrong, that could have been me.

Thursday, 20 September 2012


If you were designing schools for twenty first century Britain you wouldn't start here.

With working parents trying to juggle child care with a working week, you wouldn't design schools to start at nine, the very time for which parents are struggling to get to work. And you wouldn't design them to finish at three thirty or four - a time which also impinges on the working day. Additionally, you wouldn't then compound the error of a shortened school day by setting homework and initiating for many a lifelong blurring of work and leisure time.

And you wouldn't design them with seven or so weeks holiday in the summer. Nor with set time holidays at other times in the year which create scheduling and cost problems for everyone.

No, you'd design them to fit with the needs of modern Britain. Everyone knows that other educational systems, especially in the developing world, have this timekeeping aspect much more right than we do, and that their kids are working longer, learning more, ready to claim their competitive place in the new world economy.

Whilst we are complacently bungling along in a nineteenth century model, simply because we daren't face the challenging labour relations issues of changing it.

Monday, 17 September 2012


It's strange that blunt and sharp are often the same thing.

Friday, 7 September 2012


Families are marketplaces. The commodities being traded are love, and attention. I hear parents say, "I can't understand it. I've brought my Jimmy and my Johnny up exactly the same and yet they've turned out the exact opposites of each other." But Jimmy and Johnny have not been brought up exactly the same. Jimmy was there first. His infant world was him and parents. Johnny on the other hand entered a world of him, parents, and Jimmy. Where was the place for him?
I believe infants are prematurely clever at spotting the ways of gaining what they need most - love affection, attention, nurture. Like any marketeer, they realise that differentiation in a market is key. Jimmy is busy establishing his market positioning as good, so I'll be.........bad. Jimmy is noisy, so I'll be...... quiet. Jimmy is boisterous and physical, so I'll be...... sensitive and intellectual. I believe kids manage their brands in this way, with many interesting consequences.
The most obvious is difference between siblings, often mirror images in the same family. A second is the inevitability of sibling rivalry, even if this can be managed in such a way that all out war is not a regular feature of family life. Less obvious, but still pronounced, is the tendency for oldest or single children to have qualities which coalesce around "good", "dutiful", "achieving", "hard working", "agreeable". One can understand this as a likely consequence of the market conditions. Free of competition, the only people to please are the parents, whereas later siblings face internal competition in the nest. I encounter a lot of second children who have formed personas around "difficult", "rebellious", "naughty", "bad".
Awareness of these ideas generally comes as a surprise. But awareness of such patterns, and their formation seems critical to me in establishing choice as an adult. We are all concoctions of our conditioning, but not inevitably. If a panel of family psychologists were to read what I've just written, I have little doubt that it would be seen as an over simplification. But thinking out my familial marketing strategies, their relevance to my family life, and their possible relevance and efficacy (or not) in my adult life has been a treasure trove of awareness for me, and for many others whom I have had the privilege of accompanying on their particular journey.


Ignore the score.

Go deaf.

Sunday, 19 August 2012

"But one can't believe impossible things."

"I dare say you haven't had much practice," said the Queen.


My friends were talking about spirituality. They had a book of spiritual exercises and tests and were congratulating themselves on how well they scored. Especially on attachment. They had learnt not to be attached.
When I reached over and tore a page out of their book, what do you think happened?

Thursday, 16 August 2012





Tuesday, 14 August 2012


We have family connections in Sudan. A visit there is imminent. Out of interest I was looking at some statistics about the country.
Their infant mortality rate is 68 per thousand births. That is, approaching 7% in old money.
The UK Caesarian section rate is 23% nationally and as high as 30% in some hospitals.
Does not compute.

Monday, 13 August 2012


The Olympics have been a remarkable achievement on many fronts. Team GB has had a gold fest, resulting in a world sporting standing for Britain which is astonishing. The organization and vision of the games has been, quite frankly, amazing. Its ceremonies have been splendid, uplifting, and a superb advertisement for Britain worldwide. It has lit our interest and excitement and provided many iconic, moving and wonderful sporting moments. More than that, it must surely have a lasting effect in kindling sports enthusiasm and funding up and down the land. And then there are less measurable but nonetheless tangible effects. It has communicated to everyone in Britain a fantastically positive message in support of our diverse racial and cultural community, bringing us together with pride and excitement in the achievements of athletes from widely differing backgrounds. Grand dreams have been played out in grand spectacle, and we have communally overcome our traditional British reserve to show how we feel about it, both on the podium, and up and down the country when yelling at the telly from the sofa. We have cheered home our boys and girls, sometimes lifting them to even further greatness. And our British love of a tryer meant we cheered as loudly for the last man in the marathon, as for the first. And not only is there the implied message that we can achieve grand dreams on the field of play, but the sheer enormity of the Olympics vision and  organization has underlined that we are a country that can pull off with enormous panache even the grandest of organizational challenges. All of that ought, and can, be inspiring to any of us who desires to achieve anything.
It would be mealy mouthed to dwell on small failures - the ticketing failures and the failures of G4S, when so much else has gone so spectacularly well. Indeed, in the latter case, that failure has furnished us with yet another reason to be thankful for our great armed services, and has added some millions back into good causes from a chagrined commercial organization.
We have been worthy of the Olympics.
But have the Olympics been worthy of us?
The Olympic movement has a long way to go to modernize. It is incomprehensible to me why the paralympics are separated from the main games and not fully integrated. The logic underlying which games are selected for inclusion and which are not seems an arcane mystery. I have nothing against syncrhronised swimming. But its inclusion, when golf, cricket, baseball, snooker, karate, cross country, the half marathon, motor sport, darts, aerial sports of all kinds, not to mention a host of others, are excluded, baffles me. Likewise, the Olympic stance on amateur versus professional, which seems to be completely different for different sports (football a good example), leaves me puzzled. Also, the IOC and its rituals could do with an image overhaul. Why are men in grey who we've never heard of presenting the medals? Why are they old? Why are they men? And why the flowers? Why are the ceremonies announced in French? Why are Olympic officials literally treated as royalty? These things are unaccountable gaps between the Olympic movement and current world perceptions and realities as spectacularly displayed by London 2012.
When the London 2012 logo was first released, I must admit I thought it was a mishmash saying nothing. Now, in the fullness of a games that have been diverse, inclusive, exciting, vibrant and absolutely contemporary, and have said the same about London and Britain, I must admit, I was wrong.
Its been wonderful. Now lets hope the Olympic movement catches up.

Wednesday, 25 July 2012


One of the things government might best avoid is moralising. Yet government seems drawn to it, often with ridicule being the result.
A recent pronouncement on what is or is not moral deserves some ridicule.
It is, apparently, immoral to pay a tradesman cash in hand.
Because he or she will then evade tax.
So my window cleaner's tax affairs, and the honesty or otherwise of his disclosure is my moral responsibility.
I don't think so.

Tuesday, 24 July 2012


Perhaps you give to charity. I do. Not, probably, what one would call huge sums, but a significant enough part of my earnings to feel I am doing something worthwhile. It’s a simple enough process: choose a charity I think is worthy; give to it.

I get irritated by all the justgiving requests I get.

Here are a few examples. A friend is climbing Mont Blanc for charity. Another friend is doing an epic walk in the Welsh mountains for charity. Other friends are running a marathon, a triathlon, a 10k a midnight adventure, all for charity.

Now these are all well and good, but my hypothesis is this: they aren’t doing it for charity. They are doing it because they want to.

I intend to test this hypothesis by offering a pound more than all the funds they have had pledged if they agree not to do it: not to climb that mountain, complete that hike, set off on that run.

This should sort the charitable men from the boys.

Sunday, 22 July 2012


The spoilsport strike decision of five and a half percent of the members of a public servants' Union triggering a national strike have prompted some heated debates about the relative efficiencies of public services being met by the state or the private sector, along with the more obvious debate around the merits or otherwise of this rather limited definition of a democratic decision.

Look at the awful things that have happened to state services since they have been privatised, say those whose preference is for state ownership, and look how much profit they are making.

Mathematically, of course, the argument for privatisation, is simple. If service levels can be maintained or improved at same or lesser cost to the user, then profit levels are irrelevant in anything other than a political sense.

Of course you can argue that the same service maintenance or improvement could have been got under state ownership at lesser cost, because the profit margin would be removed. Except that the very people who make this argument - an efficiency argument - are the leaders of the Unions currently threatening strikes on such highly suspect grounds. That does not give one great confidence in their relentless efficiency drive.

There is another smart little argument which applies. Even under a Labour government, there was a constant questioning of whether public services might better be outsourced to the private sector. I have never yet heard of a private sector organisation seriously examining whether a public body should deliver its essential services.

Thursday, 19 July 2012




Wednesday, 18 July 2012



No bastard ever won a war by dying for his country.
He won it by making the other poor dumb bastard die for his country.

Never tell people how to do things.
Tell them what to do and they will surprise you with their ingenuity.

Sunday, 15 July 2012


Master:   Who is your best friend?

Student:   It is a wise man who knows where the sea ends.

Monday, 2 July 2012


Take enough potatoes which when sliced will cover a large roasting pan.
Slice very thinly.
Thinly slice two onions and add in the pan to the potatoes.
Rinse two handfuls of fresh sage from the garden. Scatter this on the potatoes and onions.
Be liberal with your covering of good quality olive oil.
Grind on sea salt.
Bake on the Aga floor for about thiry minutes, by which time the potatoes will be brown and crispy.
Poach eggs.
Serve potatoes with poached eggs on top.
Open a decent bottle of Rioja.
You will be very well fed indeed.

Sunday, 1 July 2012



Friday, 29 June 2012

MATEY: Do you believe in fate?

HB: I believe that conscious individuation is extremely difficult to acheive. It may well be the quest of life. Its difficulty is not relieved by the self flattery we have of believing our own rhetoric, when it comes to our own authenticity. Semi conscious motivations can lead us to places and patterns which might feel externally derived or controlled. That's what I think we mistake for fate.

Sunday, 24 June 2012


On the whole I despise the idea of managing people.
As someone who sees work not only as a means of earning a humble crust, but also of self expression and creative fulfilment, I have expectations that others, in working for me, can and will exercise the same opportunities. This means that it is up to you to express yourself to whatever degree you want. You'll only get encouragement from me to do so. It means that the challenge of managing others for me is simply to encourage them to be themselves and then step back and let em be so. That, of course, to an extent, redefines job.
As someone who lives or dies by doing what they promise, I also expect that.
I believe strongly in self responsibility - doing what it says on the tin. More importantly, doing what you say you will, no matter what.
Not everyone gets it. Needy, "employee attitude" holders are unlikely to do so.
I don't care what time you come in.
I don't care what time you leave.
I don't much care what you do in between.
I don't believe in policies.
I don't believe in appraisals.
I don't believe in "development plans"
I don't believe in supervision.
I do believe in you and your ideas. Do you?
When there is an agreed output, you produce it.
No buts. No ifs. No excuses.
Do what you say.
Do it, even if it costs you.
Do it, at all costs.
If you don't, you won't be warned twice.

Thursday, 21 June 2012


I am an occasional smoker.
By which I mean, I never buy them, but if you open a pack of snouts, especially outside a pub two pints in, I'll happily cadge.
I'm not addicted. I'll go for weeks, months, without one. Then if I want one, I'll have one. No one is addicted. It is a myth bust open in Allen Carr's excellent book THE EASY WAY TO STOP SMOKING.
So I am not positioning myself as anti smoking.
But when I go to a client's offices and there is a constant stream of smokers heading out to the outside smoking hutch (now that smoking in any public building is banned) it does make me wonder whether an employer would be justified in paying smokers less than other workers. Five minutes for a fag. Ten fags a day, maybe more. That's an hour or so less a day than other workers. Five hours a week. twenty hours or so a month. 250 hours a year (or 30 and a bit days in old money).

Mmmm. A large cost, for sure.

Wednesday, 13 June 2012


The poppies at Allerthorpe hurt my eyes.
It was as though someone had painted them in a hideously loud high visibility paint.
They are all red, of course, but each is different seen against its individual background.
They are like a family all dressed up to the nines, but with each one trying desperately to outdo the others. Fantastic reds, screaming at you to be noticed.
A red carpet to attract the brightest of stars.

Sunday, 10 June 2012


When the heaven has enough blue
To make a sailor's trousers
And the dew is fresh beneath the leaf
And joy comes easy,
You are singing your heart out,
Reminding me, Blackbird,
To drink in the radiance
Your song never forgot.

Saturday, 9 June 2012


When the sky is black over Will's Mum's
And my spirit's lower than the ponded field,
It takes just one blackbird singing
To keep me walking forward,
Rebuild faith in my own heart's beating,
Keep me going in my own direction.

Friday, 25 May 2012


I seem to meet quite a lot of people who tell me I should do this, that or the other, or, more probably that I shouldn't do this, that or the other, because of climate change / global warming.

I generally ask them a couple of questions:

"What is the most compelling evidence you have seen of man's causality in climate change?"


"What's the best evidence you have seen that man can control climate change?"

Amazingly enough, I have never yet had a straight, factual answer to either question. The response I do get is a hateful look of the kind reserved for, I imagine, paedophiles, or some other species of vileness in the eye of the beholder, and the following sort of rhetoric:

"Ah... you're a climate change DENYER, are you?"

Nope. I'm not even a fully paid up climate change sceptic. Now. Where's your data?

I am a sceptic, though, about anything which becomes orthodoxy, which becomes axiom. Why? Because it offends the human capacity to inquire, to think.

It may be easy. But is it right?

I live in hope that someone is going to give me an answer to my two questions.

I will listen with a very genuine interest and curiosity.

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

A SHORT HISTORY OF.......................... HELICOPTERS

Today there was a helicopter at Laytham, hovering to inspect the high tension wires and pylons. The pilot was very skilful, keeping the chopper still as an onboard camera caught all the action of lines and joints. It set me in mind of my own occasional contact with aircraft of the rotary variety.

I was introduced to them as a very young man. The first I ever encountered were Westland Wessex. Big old things. I was taught to rappel down a rope to get out of them, blacked up and in camouflage. I can still remember the excitement of these rare, expensive aerial bus rides, which saved you miles of walking. I remember the orders:
"Make safe before you get in. When over the landing zone, take your turn sitting on the step. Sling you rifle over your shoulder. Grab the rope with both hands. Wrap your feet. Go when I say go. Down you go. All round defence at the bottom. Cock your rifle. Try not to kill yourself or anyone else." This was before the days of Health and Safety. No safety line and karabiner, Just NCO Instructors who delighted in telling you certainly spurious stories about the last young soldier to have fallen, and how he twitched about in spinal agony beneath the whirling rotors.
You were only supposed to summon helicopter assistance when absolutely needed, but the radio airwaves were full of young platoon commanders trying to cadge a ride.
"2 - 1, this is 2-1 Tango, I am experiencing heavy resistance. Very heavy. Request helivac immediately."
Then the RSM's voice.
"Negative 2 - 1 Tango. What do you think this is Mr. Berry? F**king Vietnam? Crack on".

The most unusual present I got when I married (bar the blow pipe and poisoned arrows) was a helicopter ride around the cirques and volcanic heights of Reunion Island. Very nice. Bit too short, I recall.

It was then quite a few years before I got to use a whirly bird in anger. I was doing a course over in Herefordshire and got, at late notice, a summons from a client to a presentation of a large proposal, in Milton Keynes. The course finished at, I think half three. The Milton Keynes meeting was called for five. "Only one form of transport will get you there in time," my PA informed me. "How much?" I answered. After wincing, I authorized the credit card. At three twenty seven, or something, the hotel receptionist came into the training room and announced "your helicopter is here, Mr. Berry." I said, "Ah, yes. Just ask them to hold on while I finish would you?" Then, after making my apologies to the open jawed room, I grabbed my overnight bag, walked out to the hotel lawn and the awaiting chopper, engines still on, slung the bag nonchalantly in the back seat and got in. "All set, Mr. Berry?" asked the pilot. "Let's go," I said. Then came the trip's only problem: concocting a wave cool enough to suggest to the training course now asssembled on the lawn that this was a customary mode of transport. At Cranfield airfield, my PA had kindly, and cunningly arranged for one of the client's managers to meet me. I emerged to shake their hand, feeling like an exotic rajah. I hardly need say, we got the contract.

Note to self, I thought wistfully today. Helicopter is the ONLY way to travel.

Saturday, 19 May 2012


Ee. I've come a long way since I were a lad.

555.34 miles, to be precise.
My love is seeing your perfection.

Friday, 18 May 2012

A shite day.

I drive 200 miles to see a prospective client.
They've got the wrong time in the diary.

I return to another client seeking to postpone a vital programme.


Only two remedies known to man: lager and curry.

Thursday, 17 May 2012

"Are you trying to pick me up?"

"Well, you're succeeding."

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Just taking the dogma for a walk .........................................

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

A dogma isn't just for Christmas.

It's for life.

Friday, 11 May 2012


Sometimes one comes up against people who are carrying around with them the weight of blaming. It's a heavy piece of baggage to shoulder, and it invariably invokes my compassion. Put it down, I want to say. Just leave it there, and you will walk the taller.

Just occasionally one encounters a severe case, and the individual actually looks tortured by it, as though the habit of blaming has actually twisted their body or demeanour. I can imagine with time such a burden leading to all sorts of skeletal and other health problems.

And it does seem as though it is a peculiarly difficult thing for people to let go. I suppose that may be because blame proves you right, even if you aren't. It feeds on its own certainty. When blaming you perhaps feel as though you are giving the blame to someone else. But you are not. You are deepening its hold on your own body. Not relaxing, for sure.

Buddha said that blame is like a red hot coal which you throw at someone else. It may burn them, but it will certainly burn you.

I try to avoid the habit myself, because I'm a coward, and I don't like burning myself, though I'm certain I have my moments. I've most certainly had my moments of being on the receiving end. They can sting. But the smarting is momentary, depending as it does on feelings of guilt. Sure, there's a pang, a brief primal self questioning as one gets a childhood reminder of the stern parent voice. But guilt is a tricky matter. It's rarely, in my experience, resident only in one person. More normally, it's a bitter pie, to be shared out to a few. Often, to the person doing the blaming there's a fair portion due.

A swift check of the body and conscience, and relaxed order is restored. Did I do what I could? Did I do what anyone might reasonably expect? Did I do what any fallible human might? Yes? Good. I can go on without concern, and without the torture carried on by the blaming habit, etching itself ever deeper, ever more corrosively into character and physicality.

The coal misses, as (because it is thrown in the blindness of rage) it invariably will.

Thursday, 10 May 2012

Does this explain what sometimes seem to be Sisyphian efforts?

Tuesday, 8 May 2012


Saturday, 28 April 2012

Wednesday, 25 April 2012


Night time visits to the orchard revealed the planets in a strangely bright alignment. Was this an omen? We were to leave before first light, chauffeured by Dr. Bobski. But before first light, up and cooking bacon in the Aga, I answered the phone to an apologetic Frau Bobski.
“The good Doctor is ill.”
“Not shamming?”
“Not shamming.”
“Then wish him a speedy recovery.”
“You will still go?”
“Of course. We must.”
The vehicle was loaded. The forecast was as good as we would get . The time was our own. And, most importantly of all, the seed of an idea was planted, had germinated and was growing into an adventure – a question mark which needed an answering exclamation. Without our chauffeur, we drove in a mist – layered dawn as far North as we could get - Yeddingham. North of here could not be guaranteed to provide a depth of water. So the daily depth surveys on the Environment Agency’s website showed.
The Derwent, North to South. That was the idea. There is only one man to call with such ideas – the Companion. His answer is always yes. So it was.
“By canoe.”
“You don’t have a canoe.”
“We’ll buy one.”
Adventure is bought cheaply at your local Decathlon. For a couple of hundred pounds we equipped ourselves with a canoe, paddles, life jackets and two large waterproof stow bags. We were immediately impressed with the inflatable canoes over the solid kayaks. More practical, we reasoned. We won’t have to buy a roof rack. We were even more impressed by the young lady who helped us with our purchases.
“How far can you go in a day?” we ask.
“Depends how hard you paddle.”
“Well, what will be our likely speed?”
“Probably about walking pace.”
“2 and a half miles an hour....”
“Or thereabouts. Plus rests.”
“Two miles an hour then,” said the Companion, “times, say, ten or eleven hours. Twenty odd miles.” “Ten hours?” The young lady raised one eyebrow. We liked that.
“Have you done this before?” she asked.
“No,” we chorused.
Up went the eyebrow again. We liked that.
And so to Yeddingham. Two innocents, against the mighty Derwent. The publican at Yeddingham (The Providence Inn – or The Prov as it is known and recommended) kindly let us launch from his camping ground. As we pumped away with the hand pump to inflate the canoe, a local emerged to quiz us about our intentions. Previous adventures with the Companion have been magnetic to nutters – the man about to jump from a bridge over the M5, the Ostler who’d been everywhere and done everything, even when our prompts became ludicrous. There’s a long list. Would this very early morning acquaintance be added?
“I’ve had a few personal problems, “ he began.
A lightning exchange of glances between the Companion and I. Not a propitious start.
“But I’ve given up the drink now, and the weed............... more or less anyway.” He coughed through a rollie. “Now, I’ve got me van, and if you two need picking up anywhere, just call, and I’ll come down in me van and get you.” He gave us his tradesman’s card. Flabbergasted by this dawn act of kindness, we spluttered an astonished thank you. “Good luck,” he said, got in his van and went. No addition to the list, then.
Our maiden launch is into a straight black line of Derwent, running west through a deep cut in the field system, more a dyke than a river. Within moments, the river transforms our world to a new, magical perspective. Mist lays in patches on its surface. Ahead of us, the fizzing blue neon of a kingfisher whizzes away, waits for us, then shoots off again. Short eared owls, give up their perches and wearily flap away - big birds, normally unseen. Buzzards mew above. Their cry sounds to me like the cry of the bird world’s wimps. You’d think buzzards would be the hard men of Britain’s skies. But they get pushed around something rotten by Rooks. And the rooks’ mocking cries are flung after the buzzards’ departures. Outlined in a patch of mist is a deer, come down to the river to drink. A roe buck. We are quiet, paddles amidships. We glide towards him. When we are about twenty feet away, he makes off. Because of the river banks, we are looking up at him. It feels like a rare intimacy.
The OS maps tell us we should soon start a long loop south and south east, and when we meet the River Rye, flowing in from the right, we feel like pioneers who’ve reached a new frontier. We pee, in celebration. We are making four miles an hour. Take that, Decathlon girl.
Now we are in what really feels like a river. It is the colour of hot chocolate. The banks are ill defined, willows breaking up their line. Then, suddenly, a park bench, noticeably more litter, and we are going through Malton. Some fishermen ask us how far we’re going. When we tell them, they say “hope you’ve got some beers aboard.” We haven’t. A smart arse calls to us: “you’ll have to paddle faster than that to get in the Olympics.” We wave. Then we rehearse what should have been our rejoinders. They stick, like the muddy river around a log, to a very dense knot of obscenities.
Beyond the town I say “you take the gun”. This is a code. It comes from Ejnar Mikkelsen’s epic Two Against The Ice – the tale of two explorers who return to Scoresby Sound in East Greenland in 1910 too late for their ship, and thus are forced to overwinter there. The story is dominated by their extreme hunger. At one point, one of them says to the other, “you take the gun”, unable to trust himself not to shoot and eat his companion. We get out of the water, drag the canoe up the bank, secure it, and become immediately shivering cold. We eat a few snacks and plan a brew up for the next stop. Once paddling again, the effort warms us. But any stop, and we are immediately freezing. At Hutton, the skies darken. We pass under the incongruous suspension bridge there. Someone’s folly. Reaching Crambeck seems to take forever. Woods close in both sides of the river. The water is dark, evil looking. “Childe Roland to the Dark Tower came,” I say. The Companion answers with a mad increase in paddling tempo, and begins to sing. This would be ok if the paddle strokes matched the rhythm of his song. They don’t. We are both honestly tiring, though neither of us will admit it. We stop and brew on the Trangia stove. The hot black coffee is like nectar. To cheer us, under the black sky, and ominous vale, I tell the story of the curse of Kirkham, as we approach it. No male heir shall ever inherit happiness . We ponder that as we pass the demesne of Howsham, on the market for five and a half million, curse and all.
Now we are in weir land, and across three, we break our virginity in porterage. Such a gentile sounding word. The reality is so different. Moving like old men, we struggle with fine motor skills and strain our shivering muscles to hoick out the boat and pull it beyond the weir. “Never again,” we pant. “There’s got to be an easier way.” We had forgotten to open the drain plug. Weirs two and three, and we keep the boat in the water, and hold onto it with a line from the bank. Much more efficient, though the force of the water down the weirs threatens to pull us in. We stumble about, shaking with cold, just about managing it. By weir three, we are thinking “maybe we should shoot it.” But we are new to all of this, and discretion seems the better part of valour.
Between Scrayingham and Stamford Bridge, the river is overgrown. Fallen trees all but block it. Debris and scum collects around them, so that our progress is terribly slow, and consists not of paddling, but of manhandling ourselves through dense webs of branches, snapping here, pruning there, ripping our faces with evil branches snapping back into us. We worry about the integrity of the inflatable, and wish, amongst all our other junk aboard, we’d stowed the brush hook.
After ten hours paddling, and twenty six miles of river we come to Stamford Bridge, site of the first battle of 1066, and the end of our battle with the river. We are all in. We just about manage to get ourselves and the boat out of the river and we discover the drain plug. But we’re too cold to take any joy in the discovery. We just need the Missus to appear in the car before we both go down with hypothermia. Our shivering is extreme. God knows how we manage it, but we deflate the canoe and transport it and all our kit half a mile up a footpath to the road. When the Missus appears she grumbles about our inconveniencing her. She does not realize how far gone we are. Ten more minutes of waiting and I’d have been calling an ambulance. But we recover, and now ready ourselves for the rest of the river another day.

Tuesday, 17 April 2012


By popular demand:


Decide if you are making red (spicy) or white (very full of chicken flavour and rich and creamy) and follow relevant instructions for your choice
Ingredients are given in CAPITALS so you can see at a glance what you need
Fry PANCETTA on quite a high heat in a large frying pan. You can see when its done as it starts to turn colour. Don't overdo it.
Red version - you can now add sliced chorizo if you want.
Chop at least 2 ONIONS. Add to the pancetta and transfer to a lowish heat, cover and fry in OIL till translucent, soft and sweet.
Add LEEK, sliced, and fry
Red version, now add SWEET AND HOT SMOKED PAPRIKA (about a teaspoon or so of each)
White version - omit this.
Add RISOTTO RICEto cover all the other ingredients
White version, add two further chocken stock cubes
Stir it all in together. Leave to cook gently, uncovered.
Simmer until the rice is cooked, being careful to stir just enough that the thing doesn't stick to the bottom of the pan. You need to keep an eye on it and turn it over occasionally or it will burn.
White version, thinly slice a SOFT CHEESE, ideally Taleggio / Brie, and add the thin cheese slices, spreading them over the surface and mixing them in to melt in with the other ingredients. You can use Parmesan but it won't be as good.
Season with salt and pepper, tasting to test the seasoning. Don't overdo the pepper. You can't get rid of it once its in.
Red version will benefit from a squeeze of lemon juice and a swirl of olive oil to finish
White version, just a swirl of oil. If you're feeling really indulgent, or if you have used Parmesan rather than a softer cheese, then add a swirl of CREME FRAICHE.
Serve with a good crisp salad, mainly greenery.
And plenty of wine.

Tuesday, 10 April 2012


  • L'Appartement
  • Panj é asr‎
  • Anne of Green Gables
  • The Wicker Man
  • The Time that Remains
  • The Visitor

'Tis the gift to be simple
'Tis the gift to be free
'Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be
And when we find ourselves in the place just right
It will be in the valley of love and delight

When true simplicity is gained
To bow and to bend, we will not be ashamed
To turn, turn, will be our delight
'Til by turning, turning, we come round right

Saturday, 7 April 2012


Skydiving has moved on a bit since I last jumped.

Wednesday, 4 April 2012


Why don't birds collide?

Monday, 19 March 2012


A thank you to the readers of this site who have been, in a loving and supportive way, asking what the heck's happened.
Your support is appreciated.
I am climbing a mountain.
At least, that is what fills my dreams as well as my waking activity.
I am spread thin between old world and new world - the old world of my consulting practice, and the new world of the business venture I am building. This naturally means I'm busy. The old world has to go on paying till the new world gets built. And, since the new world is heavily web dependant, there is a lot of building to be done, some by me, some supervised by me.
It is a very different experience from starting my business eighteen years ago. Then, there was a manic energy, fuelled by sales coming out of my ears. When, in two trading months, I had made my annual salary, I knew I was on a winner. Then it was ego all the way, and, for a number of years, a rock star / rock group kinda life. We claimed the outrageous as brand property in a way that the more austere zeitgeist now does not allow. We were awash with sales - and no factory needed.
The energy now is calm, and considered, even though the production pace is intense. The reason is simple. Eighteen years ago I was riding, though I strenuously denied it, on a cult of personality. Now, I am building a product, a system, a box. It is a very nice box, but a box, nonetheless. And it needs a factory to build it, without which there can be no sales, and with which comes the inevitable fear - all this time and money is going out - will there be any?
I've had feedback which has gone: "it sounds great, but not at all resembles you."
That tells me I am on the right path.
You see, there's a problem with personality. Its appeal may be great, but its scale is limited to you. I have wider ambition. And, in a quiet, English sort of way, I have a confidence that my box will fulfill it.
Once I've climbed the mountain, I will have fully designed and built it.
The climbing is a marathon, not a sprint. I'm not even sure we've seen the summit yet, let alone got anywhere near it. That sales and accolades for the system are already building is pleasing, but I can't let small achievements now persuade me of an importance greater than they actually have. They are steps. They are knolls, rock features, minor peaks passed. But they are not anywhere near the summit. There's an awful long way to go. And the steps are careful, measured and considered.
To those who've missed this blog - thank you, and I hope I shall find some time to stop on the climb and share the view.

Friday, 24 February 2012

HB 1

Pointyheads 0

Sunday, 29 January 2012

Thursday, 26 January 2012

Can't make the buggers work .............................................................................yet.
I find myself looking at older men.

I know, I know. Not that.

I just can't find any role models.

It's quite depressing.

Suggestions, please.

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Some people think they have a God-given right to live beyond the system.

Monday, 9 January 2012


Look, friend. Suffering
Has made you more beautiful:
Lines of a survivor.

Sunday, 8 January 2012


You could taste my soul.
It would taste just like water
Drunk underwater.

Saturday, 7 January 2012

  • New year
  • New business
  • New bagpipes